Saturday 01 Oct 2016

A Need for Speed
Matt Seinberg

There are certain things that people like to do fast. I would include driving, walking and anything else that involves motion. Of course, there are some exceptions to the rule, especially depending on where you live.

Native New Yorkers like to do everything fast, except two things. One is shopping. Too many people like to waste the time of a sales associate, for no other reason than they’re bored or need to kill some time before meeting a friend for lunch.

The other activity New Yorkers like to do fast is sex. That’s not the topic of this column. Look somewhere else for that.

During some great vacations, I noticed almost anywhere outside of New York City life slows down, with two exceptions: Chicago and Los Angeles. The wind in Chicago propels folks around rather quickly and Los Angeles has more cars and highways than we can count.

People are more polite outside of New York City. When we visited San Francisco, a few years ago, people would go out of their way to answer questions. If we even had a perplexed look on our faces, when on the bus, say, wondering where to go or get off, someone would volunteer to help us before we asked. Try that on a New York City bus or subway, people think you’re panhandling or going to rob them.

Marcy and I were on a bus in San Francisco, wondering what stop to get off to maximize the sites, when a couple sitting behind us politely interrupted us and not only gave us directions, but suggested some places to see. I think if we asked, they would have taken us on a tour.

I always considered San Francisco a bohemian city, with a very mellow, welcoming vibe. Its Chinatown was like nothing I had experienced. We, my family and I, tried a restaurant that we saw many Chinese people going into. We figured it had to be good. It was, but it was entirely different from the Chinese restaurants we frequent in New York City. We asked for an egg roll and the waiter looked at us as if we had multiple heads. He brought us dumplings.

The same thing happened at an Italian restaurant we discovered. I don’t exactly remember what I ordered, but it was entirely different from what I expected. Instead of a red sauce, it came with a white béchamel sauce that I had not eaten before. I don’t think I’ve had it since.

Back then, I wanted to walk everywhere and not use a car. Today, the car, cable car or bus would be our preferred mode of transportation. My knees and back are older than all those years ago.

I experienced a similar vibe when I visit Portland, Oregon. My uncle has lived there for over 25 years. I had the opportunity to visit about five times. Each time I do, there is something new and different to see or do. I love to explore Portland. There are four distinct areas to the city: Northeast, Northwest, Southeast and Southwest. My uncle is in the Northwest district, so that’s the one I explored the most. It’s mostly residential, with many restaurants, coffee houses and small, locally owned stores. You can walk all day and people will actually want to talk to you!

There was one time when Michelle stopped behind us and we kept walking. We noticed, right away, she wasn’t with us. She was petting a dog that belonged to a couple that was having coffee on the sidewalk. She wasn’t old enough yet to understand the idea of not talking to strangers or petting strange animals. Since this was Portland, after all, we weren’t worried about the dog, but you never know about the people.

The point is that the pace, in Portland and San Francisco, is much slower than New York City. When you are constantly moving at 60 mph, it’s hard to slow down to 20 mph to relax, even if you are on vacation.

Here’s another example of slowing down to nearly a full stop. A cruise vacation is for you to relax, totally; that is, stop and do absolutely nothing, if that’s what you want to do. It takes a few hours to decompress once you are on the ship.

On board, you have to find your luggage and pray that it arrives earlier than later. Then you have to locate a dining room. Usually it’s up on the Lido Deck, so just follow the rest of the hungry travelers. I have one rule when I take a cruise: take the elevator up and use the stairs to come down. Oh, sorry, there is one other rule. That is to do things at my pace and not worry about anything else, be it work, home or the kids. They can all fend for themselves while I am up on the deck having fun.

Give me a deck chair, a drink, with an umbrella, a good book and music. I’m happy as an uncooked clam. Oh, did I mention that I have very dark sunglasses, which make it easier to read in the tropical sun and watch the bikinis bouncing past.

Sure, there are many activities on a cruise ship, but you can do as much or as little as you want to. Look at the activity sheet and decide what you want to do or don’t want to do. Plan all of this around where you want to have lunch and dinner, of course.

The food on a cruise ship can be amazing or downright disappointing. On our last cruise, I was looking forward to lobster night. Imagine my disappointment when I found out that there was no lobster night. It was a cutback, just like no more chocolate mints on the pillows at night.

Then of course, you have to plan around the nightly shows, of which there can be several at the same, or different times around the ship. Sometimes there is a comedian doing a late night show right after the Broadway type show, so some rushing around is involved.

I don’t mind rushing a bit if it’s something I want to do. If I have no interest, I tell Marcy to go without me. That’s another rule on a ship; couples do not have to do everything together. Having some alone time is a good thing.

Imagine this if you will. We just get back on the ship after sightseeing on whatever island. There is nothing I like more than to get back to the cabin, order coffee and snacks from room service. Then I sit on the balcony with a book and listen to nothing but the water and the rushing of the wind. That’s peace and quiet, my little slice of heaven.

So please excuse me while I book our summer vacation, a cruise of course.

Matt Seinberg lives on Long Island, a few minutes east of New York City. He looks at everything around him and notices much. Somewhat less cynical than dyed in the wool New Yorkers, Seinberg believes those who don't see what he does like reading about what he sees and what it means to him. Seinberg columns revel in the silly little things of life and laughter as well as much well-directed anger at inept, foolish public officials. Mostly, Seinberg writes for those who laugh easily at their own foibles as well as those of others.

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